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All Talk, No Action on Jobs

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Sen. Charles Schumer, seen walking to a Democratic Policy Committee lunch this month, is pushing the party’s jobs agenda.

However, Republicans have charged Democrats with "doubling down" on the same stimulus agenda that the GOP says has already failed.

Republicans have stuck to their mantra that cutting regulations and spending, while also adopting free-trade pacts, will enable the private sector to grow.

Sen. Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican charged with developing the Senate GOP's jobs agenda, said he remains optimistic something can get enacted. Portman said his plan — focused on eliminating regulatory red tape and other business-backed proposals — has attracted the interest of four or five Democrats.

But Portman said next year's elections are having a chilling effect and attributed the gridlock to the lack of presidential leadership and Democratic angst over 2012.

"To a certain extent, Democrats in the Senate have been looking to the White House to provide leadership, and I think they'd tell you they haven't seen it," the freshman Senator said in a telephone interview. "The president is not interested in moving forward with these common-sense ideas because he's in somewhat of a campaign mode."

In fact, the Senate GOP's message is focused on blaming Obama. Its working slogan is: "He's making it worse," and the example that it is expected to continue highlighting is the National Labor Relations Board case that has delayed the Boeing Co. from opening a new, $1 billion plant in South Carolina. The NLRB is accusing Boeing of expanding in the Palmetto State, rather than Washington state, to avoid having to hire union workers.

With Republicans only four seats away from taking back the Senate majority, party operatives on Capitol Hill said political insecurity has made it impossible for Democrats to agree on a jobs agenda.

Even as the country's financial woes have dampened the prospects for a robust jobs agenda from either party, the prospects for getting a comprehensive deficit and debt limit deal before the upcoming deadline seemed to dim over the weekend. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on "Face the Nation" that a short-term extension of the debt ceiling might be needed to give negotiators more time to work out a longer-term deal. Republicans have insisted on budget cuts in exchange for their votes to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said the U.S. will begin to default on its obligations.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said significant progress must be made this week or they would have to reassess the situation. Kyl, who is representing Senate Republicans in talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden, said it might take a month to get a bill through Congress even if they reach a deal.

Kyl said that he's looking forward to seeing what the Senate Democrats' jobs agenda ultimately looks like but that their push for new revenue in the talks isn't the right way to go.

"One sure way not to create more jobs is to kill the economy with tax increases," he said. "What are the Democrats asking us to do? Raise taxes."

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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